Customs officials in China have reported disappointing trade figures for the world's second-largest economy. The report pointed to a slump in both exports and imports against the backdrop of sluggish demand.
Chinese exports dropped by a staggering 11.2 percent in January year-on-year to $177.5 billion (158.1 billion euros) as tremors in overseas markets and weakness of trading partners weighed on the Asian giant.
The Customs authority added that imports plummeted by 18.8 percent to $114.2 billion in the first month of the year, with the figures being far worse than expected by analysts.
"We believe the slump in trade growth mainly reflects weakening investment demand, possibly from weaker property investment and measures to reduce overcapacity," Nomura economist Zhao Yang said in a statement.
Restructuring going on
Rock-bottom prices for commodities such as oil and slowing growth in infrastructure spending have hit China's import values, while exports have primarily been hurt by frail overseas demand, along with rising labor costs and the increasing competitiveness of rival economies.
China's leaders are in the process of retooling the economy to one focused a lot more on consumer spending, but the lack of investment in big-ticket infrastructure projects that had long fueled China's growth is dragging on imports.
There's no doubt, though, that the Asian country's record surplus gives Beijing some breathing room to cope with the floods of cash that have flowed out of the nation in recent months, with market players expecting a further weakening of the yuan.
hg/kd (Reuters, dpa)